Overtaking Diversification in Remote Central Australia: Strategies for Protecting Indigenous Culture from the Emerging Telecommunication Highway

Dr. David I. Tafler
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Historically, indigenous communities provide an attractive target for outside initiatives — for organizations and individuals. A central Australian indigenous media organization, PY Media (Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Media) traces one such history, the communities' experience on the long winding corridor of first contact, invasion, organization through missionaries, the disorder of the missionaries' departure and the subsequent impact of government, which assumed protective responsibilities. The situation on these Lands remains unsettled. Anangu (the central desert Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Ngaanyatjatjara people) continue to negotiate an uncertain future. Wonderful possibilities exist for the future of the Pitjantjatjara Lands if the people manage to negotiate successfully their emergence in the nation, their role in the global community. The more recent genesis of PY Media, founded in the 1980s to provide telecommunication opportunities for the people of its region, builds a portrait of the porous boundaries shrinking the time and space borders separating cultures. As a model of diversification, PY Media functions as a shifting consortium comprised of a group of committed outsiders and certain self-selected and highly interested families within the community. Over the past five years, that group has expanded on both ends. It now embraces larger numbers of Anangu, and representatives of government and the private sector. An examination of inflow and outflow demands major consideration of the conduit itself. Information and knowledge operate differently in different contexts. At the core, the interplay of diversification depends on the formulation of the common ground — on how the respective parties negotiate a mutual knowledge of very different time and space systems. To support its argument, this paper will use those very different time and space systems as the common denominator for examining cultural difference, its influence and endurance on the emerging information highways.

Keywords: Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Media Organization, Broadband Information Highways, Cultural Inflow and Outflow, Diversification, Community Elders and Outsiders
Stream: Representations: Media, Communications, Arts, Literature
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. David I. Tafler

Associate Professor and Department Head, Communication Department, Muhlenberg College

David Tafler has published many articles on interactive media, camcorder activism, avant-garde cinema, and electronic art, published in journals such as "Afterimage", "Wide Angle", "Media Information Australia", "Continuum and Kunstforum", and others. His research chronicles some of the earliest innovative applications of interactive video technology in the arts. His co-edited book with Peter d'Agostino, "TRANSMISSION: Toward a Post-Television Culture", discusses the future of television and video. His work continues to focus on viewer-participant experience in an evolving media culture environment. For the past eight years, that cultural focus has shifted to the central desert of Australia. As the founder and web administrator for the PY Media supported web environment, Tafler continues to work with the other web administrators and member staff of PY Media to make that website a model for a community based interactive indigenous presence in cyberspace. Tafler continues working with the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people, studying the most recent evolution of their 50, 000 year old as it evolves in the electronic age.

Ref: D05P0079